Three months on and Ag White Paper already delivering for farmers
4 October 2015
Three months on from its release, implementation of programmes and policies under the Coalition Government's Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper is progressing well and is already delivering for Australian farmers.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Ag White Paper was about articulating clear policies and delivering practical actions, backed up with genuine investment in the sector.
"Unlike previous 'food plans' which contained little funding and few practical measures, the Coalition Government's Ag White Paper is already delivering real benefits for farmers and our nation, from fairer taxation measures, to greater drought support," Minister Joyce said.
Minister Joyce said the Ag White Paper has instilled a real sense of confidence in the farm sector, and comes at a time we are experiencing the biggest turnaround in soft commodity prices in our nation's history and seeing better returns at the farmgate.
"I am particularly pleased to report that we are delivering on numerous key Ag White Paper initiatives to strengthen our approach to drought and risk management.
"Applications for drought related concessional loans are now open in NSW, and we are working with relevant state governments to open in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria soon, as well as in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
"Likewise, of the $25.8 million allocated, we have provided $10 million in funding to the Queensland Government to tackle weeds and pest animals in drought-affected areas. Applications are now open in that state for pest control programmes, and we are also working with Victoria, SA, WA and NSW governments.
"We are already rolling out $20 million in additional funding to expand access to community mental health and family support in drought-affected areas, with additional drought coordinators now at work.
"We have also delivered the first $880,000 of our commitment of an additional $1.8 million in funding for Rural Financial Counselling Service providers in drought-affected areas, with the balance to be allocated before the end of the year.
"The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is already assessing project proposals as they come in under the $35 million Drought Communities Programme, which will fund job-creating local infrastructure initiatives in eligible drought-affected communities to build greater economic resilience for the future. The first project has been approved in the Bulloo Shire. Three additional local governments, Barcoo, Coonamble and Richmond shires, are now eligible for inclusion in the programme.
"To help farmers manage risk and prepare for drought, work has already begun on a $3.3 million Bureau of Meteorology project to give farmers more localised, accurate and frequent seasonal forecasts. Implementation of a new forecasting model has begun and consultations are underway with users on their needs from the improved service.
"Discussions with states and territories and key stakeholders have commenced for the delivery of a $29.9 million programme to provide advice to farmers to help them make business decisions and evaluate options for insurance and risk management.
"Since 12 May 2015 farmers have benefited from the Ag White Paper measures delivering fairer tax arrangements for fencing, water infrastructure and fodder storage assets.
"Farmers now have access to simplified accelerated depreciation arrangements for fencing—allowing them to immediately tax deduct the cost of new fencing in the first year of purchase.
"Farmers can also claim immediate tax deduction of the cost of new water infrastructure, and accelerated three-year depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder assets—worth an estimated $86 million per year.
"A dedicated ATO hotline for taxpayers in drought affected areas is up and running. Over 6000 calls have already been made to this new service.
"We have also delivered on our commitment of an additional $50 million to boost emergency pest and disease eradication capability—helping Australia maintain the clean and green status that is so vital to our agricultural industries and our reputation in global markets.
"To promote access for our producers to premium markets, the five new Agricultural Counsellors announced under the Ag White Paper have been appointed for the key markets of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, China and the Middle East. They will complete intensive training and industry consultation before taking up their posts from January 2016.
"Work is well underway on reforms to country of origin labelling for food, to provide consumers with clearer, simpler information on where their food is from.
"The Ag White Paper doesn't just outline our vision for agriculture in Australia – it delivers clear and practical actions to realise that vision, actions that we are now taking.
"Every single initiative was informed by a thorough consultation process, with more than 700 submissions and face-to-face engagement with around 1000 stakeholders.
"Our agriculture sector consistently delivers for Australia—for our economy and our way of life. And this government will continue to deliver real measures and real results at the farmgate to support the sector as a pillar of our economy."
More information on the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper is available at agwhitepaper.agriculture.gov.au.
Progress on implementation of measures under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper includes:
- $250 million Drought and Drought Recovery Concessional Loans: Applications are open in NSW; applications will open progressively in other states and the NT as arrangements are finalised with jurisdictions.
- $35 million Drought Communities Programme: Applications for infrastructure projects are currently being assessed; three additional local government areas have been approved as eligible for inclusion in the programme.
- $25.8 million for tackling pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas: $10 million has been allocated to Queensland and applications for projects are open now; consultation is underway with Victoria, SA, WA and NSW governments.
- $20 million additional funding for community mental health and family support in drought-affected areas: Additional drought coordinators already at work; funding being rolled out to service providers.
- Tax advice for drought-affected taxpayers: ATO hotline up and running with more than 6000 calls so far received.
- $1.8 million additional funding for RFCS providers in drought-affected areas: First tranche of $880,000 has been delivered, balance of funding to be allocated by the end of this year.
- $3.3 million for better seasonal forecasting for farmers: Implementation and user testing of new forecasting model already underway.
- $29.9 million for insurance and risk management advice for farmers: Consultations underway with states and territory governments and other key stakeholders to roll out the managing farm risk programme in January 2016.
- $13.8 million pilot programme to help farmers to achieve greater value through collaboration: $200,000 provided to RIRDC to undertake project design and stakeholder consultation; first stakeholder workshop was held on 31 August. Member for Page Kevin Hogan has been asked to develop an options paper recommending how to utilise the remaining funds to develop cooperatives arrangements in Australia.
- $30.8 million to break down technical barriers to trade and appoint five new Agricultural Counsellors: New Agricultural Counsellors appointed to key markets (Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Middle East).
- $50 million to boost emergency pest and disease eradication ability: Funding delivered.
- Country of Origin Labelling: Proposed system and label designs announced on 21 July; work now underway to finalise details for implementation.
- Fairer tax arrangements for farmers: Farmers now have access to fairer tax arrangements for fencing, water infrastructure and fodder storage assets:
- Immediate tax deduction of the cost of new water infrastructure, and accelerated three-year depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder assets—worth an estimated $86 million per year.
- Simplified accelerated depreciation arrangements for fencing—allowing farmers to immediately tax deduct the cost of new fencing in the first year of purchase.